Sen. Corker to GOP establishment: Back off Trump

Sen. Corker to GOP establishment: Back off Trump

March 3rd, 2016 by Andy Sher in Politics Elections

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker meets with members of the Chattanooga Time Free Press editorial board Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2015, in Chattanooga.

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

Businessman Donald Trump pulled his strongest support in last week's Tennessee Republican presidential preference primary from poor, white, rural counties.

Businessman Donald Trump pulled his strongest support in...

Photo by LM Otero

In this Feb. 21, 2013, file photo, state Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey holds a news conference in his office in Nashville

In this Feb. 21, 2013, file photo, state...

Photo by Associated Press /Times Free Press.

Gov. Bill Haslam

Gov. Bill Haslam

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.

NASHVILLE -- U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., today chided national Republican leaders on their effort to shut-down GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump.

"Here's my message to the Republican Party leaders: Focus more on listening to the American people and less on trying to stifle their voice," the Chattanoogan said in a statement.

His comments came as 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the Republican's  2008 nominee, blasted the billionaire reality show star as unstable.

Romney warned Trump is seeking to exploit "our anger for less than noble purposes. This is the very brand of anger that has led other nations into the abyss."

Corker said that "what's happening in the Republican primary is the result of two things: the fecklessness and ineptness of the Washington establishment in failing to address the big issues facing our country and years of anger with the overreach of the Obama administration."

Repeating earlier remarks Corker, who has not endorsed any GOP hopeful, added "and to be candid, I think the American people should be angrier than they are."

Earlier today, Tennessee Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey, the Republican Senate speaker, called Trump, who won a 38.9 percent plurality of votes in Tennessee's GOP primary election on Tuesday, an "amazing phenomenon to watch.

"I think he is running against political correctness that people are sick and tired of," Ramsey told reporters. "They're happy to have a straight shooter that's running out there."

Ramsey predicted Trump will win the nomination and called it "unusual" that when McCain and Romney ran in 2008 and 2012 as "kind of the establishment's pick ... the establishment told the grassroots, the evangelical Christians or whoever it might be, that this is our nominee and to hold your nose and vote for them."

"And now that they've completely turned around and you've got the grassroots, and I think a very expanded grassroots, that is picking the nominee now and the establishment is the one being told you better hold your nose and vote for this guy," Ramsey said.

Ramsey, who has not disclosed whom he voted for, said he would support Trump if he becomes the GOP's nominee.

He also said the establishment now is saying "that's different ... I think he's reached an audience he hasn't reached in a long time."

He said he thinks Trump may carry more states as the GOP's standard than anyone since Ronald Reagan with the possible exception of George Bush.

"I think he is appealing to people who've never been appealed to before."

Earlier in the day, Republican House Speaker Beth Harwell said she would support Trump, too.

"Yes," Harwell said. "He is playing by the rules and he's been victorious. If he's our nominee, I will support him."

"I think he's touched a nerve with the public," Harwell said, "and I've always seen him as a serious candidates since the beginning."

But Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, who backed U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida in Tuesday's GOP primary here, told The Associated Press that Trump needs to make major policy changes before he'll consider backing him.

Contact Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com, 615-255-0550 or follow via twitter at AndySher1.